Moving Things & People

A change of mindset with self-driving cars

Caroline Wendt
October 25, 2019

Self-driving cars can not only make traffic safer but can also change our way of thinking about traffic. Vehicles that can automatically communicate with each other creates new opportunities for transportation in society. Terranet, in collaboration with Future by Lund, organized an event where five experts gave many interesting perspectives on self-driving vehicles.

The five representatives of future smart mobility solutions gave a series of short presentations on self-driving vehicles and had the opportunity to answer questions from the audience.

– AI is a very important topic that many are worried about. It is an industry that requires a lot of expertise and therefore we have a panel of leading experts in place. In this way, we want to bring together the industry, the city and the academy, says Christina Björnström, SVP Sales & Marketing, Terranet.

Fredrik Tufvesson, Professor of Radio Systems, Lund University Faculty of Engineering (LTH) spoke about radio-based positioning and navigation for autonomous vehicles. He explained how cars position themselves in a way similar to navigation via lighthouses but using mobile masts in their place. One problem is that transmitted radio signals can be affected by reflexes. However these can be used to improve accuracy. Furthermore, complementary technology is required such as GPS, radar, cameras, laser sensors and accelerometers to ensure the positioning system is robust. The system must be able to show where vehicles are located with an accuracy margin of 20cm. Which is why LTH, Rise, Terranet, Volvo Cars and Volvo Trucks have just started a Vinnova-funded project on software development for self-driving connected vehicles.

– The vehicles must be able to locate themselves and all other surrounding objects in order to generate a local map, says Fredrik Tufvesson. When we take the next step, this will apply not only to autonomous vehicles but to all connected co-operating vehicles. In the future it’s possible that no red lights are required since vehicles can function together anyhow.

Christian Larsson, Business Leader Active Safety & Autonomous Drive, ÅF, spoke about ‘Shared mobility and autonomous vehicles - active vehicle safety in a global perspective’. One area that autonomous vehicles can show an advantage is safety. Most accidents in today's traffic are due to the drivers, some of which are the result of the driver misjudging situations due to environmental factors - such as fog or slippery roadways.

– This is what the vehicles of the future can solve and in some cases there is already technology available that helps the drivers of today, explains Christian Larsson. For example, active safety technologies that can detect and warn tired drivers. In the future it will be possible to utilise sensor technology such as camera, radar and Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) for autonomous vehicles.

Christian Larsson also spoke about how the worlds biggest cities, so called megacities, will be at the forefront of progress in this field as they suffer from already complicated traffic situations that are forcing the development of new mobility solutions.

– It is important for a city like Lund to follow this development and see what solutions can be applied in the local context, Christian Larsson explains.

Peter Janevik, CEO of AstaZero, spoke on the subject of ‘Criteria for urban test environments and the accident risks of self-driving vehicles’. An important topic of major focus today is to continuously improve the methods of finding bugs in the software of self-driving vehicles before they operate in an environment where they can cause accidents. However, the transport problems are bigger than self-driving vehicles alone and must be solved at the system level – presently it is the commercial side of transport vehicles that takes the lead. Right now, for example, there is an ongoing test with self-driving buses in Kista. In this case, the vehicles run at 4-5 km/h with a safety driver that ensures testing at a safe level.

– It is not enough that the vehicle’s software is secure. For example, there must also be regulations for how self-driving vehicles communicate with each other and behavioural research undertaken to find methods of communication between vehicles and people in the environment, says Peter Janevik – for how can we trust that self-driving trucks will not suddenly start to drive?

Patrik Anderson, representative of ITS Sweden and concurrently Director of Business Development at Axis Communications, spoke about safer traffic environments with intelligent traffic systems. ITS Sweden is a national industry association with international counterparts in countries that also work with intelligent traffic systems. The association is a platform for collaboration in the ITS-sector between society, industry and academia. Axis are members of ITS Sweden and work towards safer traffic environments – their products are already being used in some self-driving vehicle tests with cameras and sensors.

– Vehicle sensors can now switch on and stop self-driving vehicles, explains Patrik Anderson. Before starting the vehicle again, you can see from a distance via a camera, whether it is in an uninhibited position or not. One scenario being tested today is whether bus drivers of the future can drive many buses – although for very short distances. It only takes a short time for the driver to intervene to get the bus moving again after the vehicle sensors have stopped the bus, for example, to avoid an accident.

During the debate it was discussed how to get laws in different countries to keep up with a field that is developing at a rapid pace – which is not an easy task. Another question raised was what should the interaction between technology and humans look like? The self-driving system may contain a function that warns when the situation has become too complicated for the system to handle and requires a human to take over. But how do we make sure that the driver has enough time to intervene? One advantage is that self-driving technology continues to be developed alongside an increased emphasis on sustainability – which allows the two trends to develop together.

– It is important that researchers, the city and industry now work closely together to set up a regulatory framework for what works, says Christina Björnström. It is a long journey and we are only at the beginning – starting with trials in different districts of the city before expanding to a bigger area. It is imperative that not only those who drive different vehicles have a voice but also pedestrians, passengers and the local community. If we fail to properly examine these issues now it can become a bigger problem in the future.

Translation: Ben Dohrmann


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